In recent years, there’s been a groundswell of science documenting significant health risks associated with exposure to radiofrequency radiation from cell phones, computers, and other modern wireless telecom devices.
The concerns range from reduced fertility (read Male Infertility Linked with Cell Phone EMF Exposure) to cardiac abnormalities, to potentially increased risk of cancers including brain tumors.
Just last month, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified RF from cell phones as a ‘Possible Human Carcinogen’ (Read the IARC statement). IARC Director Chris Wild said, “Given the potential consequences for public health of this classification and findings, it is important that additional research be conducted into the long-term, heavy use of mobile phones. Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands-free devices or texting.”
Some scientists say the IARC classification, which was largely based on risk of glioma, is still not strong enough, and that RF should be classified as a ‘Probable Human Carcinogen’ based existing science. Still, the IARC statement is a major step forward in recognizing the potential health risks posed by cell phones. It received tremendous media attention, and for the first time provides an official scientific basis on which governments, schools, and parents can legitimately call for precautionary behavior regarding these radiation-emitting devices.
Protecting The “Body Electric”
While there are many unanswered questions, it certainly makes sense to invoke the precautionary principle and prudence when using wireless technology.
Realize that we are electromagnetic beings. The human body is fundamentally electromagnetic, and thus vulnerable to outside sources of artificial electromagnetic fields (EMF). The brain, heart and nervous system are the most obviously electromagnetic parts of the body, but every cell has an electrical charge, and many cellular functions are based on electricity and electron transfer (a great book on this subject is, “The Body Electric: Electromagnetism & the Foundation of Life”, by Robert Becker, MD)
DNA–with its ‘coil of coils’ structure– is exquisitely sensitive to EMF. It possesses the two structural characteristics of fractal antennae: electronic conduction and self-symmetry. These properties contribute to greater reactivity of DNA to electromagnetic fields. The REFLEX Report (Risk Evaluation of Potential Environmental Hazards from Low Energy EMF Exposure), prepared by 12 scientific institutes in 7 countries, documents that EMF of the type emitted by cell phones can cause genetic changes in human cells, in vitro.
According to Henry Lai, PhD, of the Department of Bioengineering, University of Washington, ELF, RF, and MW radiation affect physiology in a similar way at the cellular and molecular levels. They can produce nervous system, immunologic, hormonal, metabolic and cardiovascular effects (join www.holisticprimarycare.net and read, Cordless Phone EMFs Trigger Heart Rhythm Abnormalities from our Winter 2010 edition). Roughly 35% of the general population is moderately sensitive, 3% is highly sensitive to the ill-effects of EMF exposure.
The reality is that EMF-emitting devices are fixtures in our modern lives. Most people will not be able to completely eliminate them. A bit of “EMF hygiene” will go a long way in minimizing risk. Here are some ideas:
Use Hard-Wired Telephones: Whenever possible, use hard-wired telecom connections, instead of a cell or cordless phone. Another option is to use a voice-over internet (VOIP) connection such as Skype, via a hard-wired computer. Contact members of Congress and insist the nation’s landline system not be dismantled, something currently under serious discussion.
Use a Speakerphone or Handset: In an emergency, when there is no other option, speak for as short a time as possible on the cell phone, and always use a speakerphone, headset, or handset attachment. These devices are available from the EMF Safety Store.
Go “BlueTube,” Not BlueTooth: Do not use EMF-based Bluetooth-type headsets or earbuds, which add an unnecessary layer of Wi-Fi exposure. Instead, use hard wired headsets, or “BlueTube” headsets which utilize plastic, stethoscope-like tubes to conduct soundwaves but not EMF to the ear.
Cell Phones & Cars—A Bad Mix: Using a cell phone in a car, train, aircraft, elevator or any other metal enclosure forces the phone to draw much higher power, which increases the EMF. A metal enclosure like a car also magnifies EMF through reflection. It is possible to connect a cell phone to a car’s external antenna, to reduce EMF. This generally requires a trained technician.
Say “BiBi” to WiFi: Whenever possible, link your computer to the internet via a hard-wired router and an Ethernet cord, rather than a wireless router or hybrid wireless/wired router. The latter can emit radiation even if using the wired Ethernet port. When using the safer, hard-wired option, make sure to disable the computer’s wireless software (Bluetooth, Airport etc.), as well. Choose a wired-only printer, and wired computer peripherals like the keyboard and mouse. Hybrid printers with wireless options can still emit EMF even if using a corded connection.
iPads = iRads: At present, Apple iPads only offer Wi-Fi or 3G internet connectivity. There’s no hard-wired connectivity option at all. Microwave radiation from iPads can be very high, especially when downloading from the internet. When charging, iPads can also expose users to unusually high voltage levels from electric fields.
Shield the Routers: A wireless router’s job is to emit continuous EMF, enabling communication between computers, home entertainment systems and other devices. Routers can commonly emit between 2,000-8,000 mW/m2. For electromagnetically sensitive people, this can pose real problems.
People can generally minimize exposure at home by using hard-wired devices, and eliminating non-essentials. This is not always possible when traveling. A “Router Wrap™” is useful in these situations. The Router Wrap is a cover made of very high quality, double-duty shielding material. Use it to shield routers, wireless printer antennas, portable phone base stations and other RF devices when these devices are not needed or cannot be easily shut off or dismantled. Router Wraps are available from ElectromagneticHealth.org. Proceeds support our advocacy work. Contact Camilla@electromagnetichealth.org for more information.
Say No to Smart Meters: Utility companies across the US are putting EMF-emitting “Smart Meters” on peoples’ homes. They’re supposed to more accurately track power usage and facilitate real time pricing. Smart Meter rollouts are being underwritten with federal stimulus money. In communities where these systems have been installed, some people have experienced acute biological effects.
The radio mesh network systems seem to be more problematic than those piggybacking on power lines (‘Broadband Over Power’), but there is concern about the latter, as well. Citizens in many states are fighting Smart Meters initiatives. Communities in Northern California have placed a moratorium on further rollouts. Under intense public pressure, California and Maine now require power companies to give customers a Smart Meter opt-out. Patients sensitive to EMF should decline Smart Meter installation. If that’s not an option, experiment with RF-shielding fabrics behind the meter.
Compact Fluorescent (CFL) Bulbs are Bad News: CFLs emit RF, UV and dirty electricity to which many people are sensitive. These bulbs also contain mercury, and must be disposed of as a toxic waste. Note that General Electric has terminated manufacture of incandescent bulbs in the US, as new energy efficiency standards for lighting go into effect 2012-2014. Stock up on old fashioned incandescent bulbs or switch to energy efficient LED bulbs that do not generate RF or UV. Some LEDs still have the dirty electricity problem, but it can be filtered.
Create EMF-Free Bedrooms: Encourage patients to keep their bedrooms as electromagnetically clean as possible. Don’t bring cell phones, portable phones, wireless routers or computers into the bedroom. Sensitive people should have their rooms checked for magnetic fields and dirty electricity. Look not only for wiring errors (with a Gauss meter) but also check the metal plumbing coming into the house for magnetic and high frequency fields. If the house has a wireless burglar alarm system, arm it only when away, not at night when at home.
EMF of all kinds can diminish sleep quality. Unplug electric devices near the bed, such as electric blankets and space heaters. Use battery powered LCD clocks (not LED), keeping them several feet from the body. Keep extension cords or power strips away from the bed. For a profoundly relaxing night’s sleep, try turning off the bedroom switch on the fuse box or installing a “demand switch” to turn the fuse off at the bedside, to eliminate all electrical current. Some people will benefit from sleeping on a grounded sheet or mattress.
Consider a Sheilding Canopy: People sensitive to EMFs should consider purchasing a specially designed mesh bed canopy, sometimes called a ‘sleep sanctuary.’ It shields the bed from RF from cell towers, WiFi devices, reducing RF by as much as 99%. Bed canopies are available from the EMF Safety Store. Needless to say, one should not attempt to use an RF-emitting cell phone or laptop under this tent.
Some experts in electric field mitigation suggest that non-continguously conductive and ungrounded tent shielding fabrics could conceivably act as an antenna for 60Hz electric field EMFs. For people sensitive to those household 60Hz fields, the RF bed tent may not be a good option. Though we have been surrounded by electric fields since the beginning of electrification in the early 1900s, there is emerging evidence that 60 Hz fields may stress the body and promote poor sleep, which in turn may contribute to many illnesses.
Be Careful with Wireless Baby Monitors: According to Larry Gust of Gust Environmental, the original wireless baby monitors with the long antennae were safe when kept 5 or 6 feet away from baby. The new generation monitors, he says, “generate radiation signature similar to cell phones, cordless phones, Wi-Fi, and some wireless children’s games (e.g. X-Box 360)”. Many scientists are concerned about subjecting babies to EMF. Search for old analog monitors with long antennae (not short stubby ones) on EBay or in thrift shops.
Protect Children: Children are more vulnerable to potential risks of EMFs because of their small size relative to adults, and their growth rates. A child’s skull is thinner than an adult’s, so radiation from a cell phone goes deeper into the brain where the tumors are more deadly.
If possible, keep cell phones and other EMF devices out of the hands of young children, whose immune and nervous systems are still developing. According to a study published a couple of years ago in the International Journal of Oncology, people who begin using cell phones as teenagers or younger have a 680% increased risk of glioma.
Governments worldwide are taking steps: Germany, Canada, Russia, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Finland have all issued warnings and called for use of headsets to minimize exposure. France has made it illegal to market cell phones to children, does not allow cell phones in public schools, and has called on manufacturers to create text-only devices. The UK’s Chief Medical Officer advised that people under 16 be encouraged to use mobile phones strictly for essential calls, and to keep them short.
These are just a few examples of what’s happening internationally. Interestingly, no US government agency is calling for precaution, although shortly after the WHO IARC statement, three members of Congress called on the General Accounting Office (GAO) to conduct a “thorough review” of the science and “adequacy” of current FCC exposure guidelines. These include Representatives Ed Markey (MA), Henry Waxman (CA) and Anna Eshoo (CA). This follows on the heels of Senate hearings on cell phone risks over a year and half ago, organized by Senators Arlen Specter and Tom Harkin, from which nothing resulted.
For more information on potential health risks associated with EMF exposure, and tips on minimizing those risks, check out the following resources:
AntennaSearch.com is a great resource when working with patients who appear to be sensitive to EMFs. You can input any US address and quickly learn where licensed antennas and towers are, or where there are plans to build them.
NIH-Brookhaven Study of Brain Metabolism Effects: In March 2011, NIH researcher Nora Volkow and colleagues published a must-read paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showing that cell phone radiation speeds up glucose metabolism, a marker of metabolic activity. The concern is that increased brain tissue metabolism may be a mechanism involved in cancer development. There is additional concern that if cell phone radiation is impacting glucose levels, it might also impact neurotransmitters and neurochemical activities.
Seletun Scientific Statement: Issued earlier this year by an international scientific consortium, the Seletun Statement called for governments worldwide to reduce ambient EMF of all kinds in the interest of public health. Watch the announcement by Olle Johansson, PhD of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden here: http://tinyurl.com/632acfo.
Special Edition of the journal, Pathophysiology: In 2009, the International Society for Pathophysiology published a special edition of its peer-reviewed journal focused wholly on Electromagnetic Fields, and their potentially adverse physiological effects. The issue was edited by Dr. Martin Blank, of Columbia University’s Department of Physiology & Cellular Biophysics, and one of the world’s most respected researchers on the impact of EMFs. The entire special edition can be viewed free of charge at ScienceDirect.
UK’s Summary of Science on Electrosensitivity for Physicians: An extensive review of symptoms, sources of exposure, pathological markers, treatment approaches, references for other illnesses linked to EMFs. For a small donation, Electrosensitivity-UK will email or mail you the report (http://www.es-uk.info/)
EMF-Help Blog™ : An excellent resource for proactive patients seeking ways of reducing their risk.
Meters & Measures: Patients with a DIY inclination may want to purchase an Electrosmog Meter to measure RF, a Gaussmeter to measure magnetic fields and a Dirty Electricity meter to measure high frequency transients. No meter measures it all, and there are other fields to be concerned with, but this is the place to start. Find well-screened meters at www.EMFSafetyStore.com. We are available for physician consultation and patient EMF remediation coaching.
Listen to Interviews with Scientists and Doctors at ElectromagneticHealth.org: Learn what is happening to patients from wireless exposures, and the deceptions in science and politics interfering with a proper response to this emerging public health issue. Our site features videos on EMF & Health from a half-day program produced at our nation’s largest and oldest public affairs forum, the Commonwealth Club of California.
Read Up on EMF: Whether it be the classics, such as books by B. Blake Levitt or Robert Becker, or The Powerwatch Handbook by Alasdair and Jean Philips in the UK, or newer books like Zapped by Anne Louise Gittleman or Dirty Electricity by Sam Milham, MD, read up! Go to www.BestEMFBooks.com to find them.
Camilla Rees, MBA, is a leading health educator, activist and environmental consultant focused on electromagnetic fields and health. She is co-author of the landmark report, “Cellphones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern, Science, Spin and the Truth Behind Interphone.” With Magda Havas, PhD, Ms. Rees is co-author of “Public Health SOS: The Shadow Side of the Wireless Revolution”. She was co-investigator in the recently published landmark study demonstrating heart irregularities from exposure to portable phone radiation, featured in Holistic Primary Care, Winter 2010, and co-founder of the International EMF Alliance, a consortium of global EMF advocacy groups. Contact: Camilla@electromagnetichealth.org